GOLDEN, Colo. (KDVR) — Regina “Reggie” Marinelli could have campaigned on the fact that she would become the first woman to hold the office of sheriff in Jefferson County history but felt her 36 years of experience in the department was enough to put her over the top.

And it turns out, she was right.

What she didn’t expect is the impact her race and election had on young women in the county.

“The one thing that has hit me by storm that I wasn’t expecting is how many parents have contacted me in the past three, four days and said, ‘You are making such a difference in my little girl’s life,'” Marinelli said.

It’s a unique inspiration Marinelli can relate to. She first felt the spark for a desire to serve in 8th grade when a law enforcement officer in Boulder County visited her classroom to show the students how the fingerprint process works.

“I didn’t want a job where I knew what I was going to be doing every minute of every day, which was kind of the norm when I was a little girl,” Marinelli said. “You go get a secretary job, you go get whatever job it is, and I didn’t want that.”

She enters the job at a time when recruitment and retention among law enforcement agencies remain a struggle. One of her priorities in office will be creating a wellness center within the sheriff’s office, with staff, chaplains and volunteers focused on mental health support of deputies.

“When you take your car in to get fixed, you want good parts put in it, and you want it to be street-ready,” Marinelli said. “Why shouldn’t we expect the same of our law enforcement officers? If there’s an issue, if something is getting worn out, if something needs to be tuned up, let’s make them street worthy.”

The mental health among her staff won’t be her only focus in that arena, but the behavioral and mental health of the Jefferson County jail’s population as well.

“You know the one thing I’d like to see in our jail is a little more therapy. We’ve started in the past, my intention is to bring it back on day one. If we can get the recidivism—part of my outlook on that jail is, if you’ve ever worked a jail, everybody who has ever worked a jail will tell you this: you will see the same people coming back time and time again. It’s a rotating door. I would like to do something where we can stop that,” Marinelli said.

“Now I’m not saying anybody is going to be let out. They’re in there for a reason, they committed a crime, and they need to take care of that. I have never been an advocate that we are gonna start letting people out of jail, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us giving them the therapies they need to get back into society and get back on their feet.”

Marinelli will also serve as the fire warden for Jefferson County in her role as sheriff. With several smaller fire districts in the Foothills, and larger districts in the metro, her goal is to bring everyone to the table for a more comprehensive plan to wildfire prevention, preparation and communication across agencies.

Marinelli will be sworn in on Jan. 10 to begin her official new role.

“36 years ago, there were not a lot of opportunities for me as a woman in this career. I’ll be the first to admit that. And a lot of times we had to take a step back and realize we were not going to get promoted,” Marinelli said. “Running for Sheriff has nothing to do with a gender. It has to do with, are you qualified for the job, do you have enough experience, can you do this job.”

It’s a surreal achievement compared to the expectations when she started at the sheriff’s office nearly four decades ago.